The History of Dacre, Son & Hartley & Where it is Now

What is Dacre, Son & Hartley?

Dacere, Son & Hartley is an estate agent business that has been leading the Yorkshire property market for over 200 years. Their offices can be found around the heart of God’s own County.

Find out how a 19th century shoemaker and tax collector gave us Yorkshire’s biggest estate agents.

Page Contents:

The beginning of Dacre, Son & Hartley

In 1790, John Dacre was born in Otley. When he was 23, John married Hannah Saxon – the daughter of a carpenter who worked in the town.

During the same year in 1813, he worked as a cordwainer. His job was to create new shoes made from new leather.

By 1820, John had set up his own business as a shoemaker. However, he decided that he wanted to earn more money and started working as a tax collector.

Many of the local farmers didn’t have cash. As a result, the taxes were often paid in cattle, pigs, eggs, and other stock which Dacre had to try and sell to get the money.


Dacre became really good at the appraisal of stock. By 1847, he’d set up premises in Bondgate in the town and described himself as ‘Auctioneer and Appraiser, Northern Counties Association’.

Three years later in 1850, John decided to move again to a new premises in Northgate (now Bridge Street). However, ten years later he died and his son, also called John, took over the business.

In the early days of the business, they only auctioned and valued certain items. These included personal chattels, furniture, linen, and plates.

The business was ideally located between the rural Dales and the big cities of Leeds, Bradford, and Harrogate. As a result they were regularly called upon to value and auction farmland.

In 1869, John Dacre Junior died. His 21 year old son Charles took over the family business.

Charles soon realised that he preferred the agricultural and livestock side of the firm. As a result, he went about setting up an auction mart on Station Road which opened in 1875.

In 1881, Dacre officially moved to a new premises on Station Road. Five years later in 1886, Charles bought a block of shops on the corner of Burras Lane which were converted to offices.

The company continued to do well over the next few decades. During this time, Charles’ son John William took over.

In 1926, John William died. This led to the family company being bought by Alleyne W S Berry of Hull.

Six years later, it was then sold again to Douglas H Smallwood in 1932. During this time, the business continued to expand and included letting both industrial and commercial premises.

The Hartley side of the business began with Thomas Hartley. He started his company in Ilkley during 1906.

As part of his business, Thomas sold household furniture. He also ran an auctioneering and undertaking business.

In 1924, Thomas died. As a result, the business passed onto his son called Douglas.

Originally, Douglas worked in Scarborough before returning to Ilkley in 1927. He took premises in Tower Buildings at the bottom of Cowpasture Road before moving a year later to The Grove.

In 1929, Douglas opened a second office on Boroughgate in Otley. Later, he moved the business onto Station Road which was almost opposite Dacre & Son, naturally putting them in direct competition.

Seven years later in 1936, Douglas Hartley and Douglas Smallwood called a truce. They merged the firms to become Dacre, Son & Hartley which name still remains today.

How Dacre, Son & Hartley became what it is today

As the business expanded, Smallwood’s younger brother John joined the firm. Soon after, they opened a new premises in Skipton and then Keighley a few years later.

Over the years, the firm has moved offices several times in Ilkley, Skipton, and Keighly and taken other offices throughout Yorkshire. However, the Otley office has remained in the same location.

In 1987, Dacre, Son & Hartley became a limited company. They were taken over by Abbey National as part of their Cornerstone Group in 1989 although the firm’s partners insisted the name remain.

Six years later in 1995, a management buy back saw the company return to local ownership. Jim Horsley became the Chairman and Martin Thompson as Managing Director.

Shop front of Dacre Son and Hartley, Photo credit, MTaylor848, Wikipedia, Creative Commons
Shop front of Dacre Son and Hartley, Photo credit, MTaylor848, Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Where is Dacre, Son & Hartley Now?

Today, the company has 21 offices across the North of England. It continues to remain a private limited company with a hands-on approach by its shareholders.

The business is one of Yorkshire’s biggest residential estate agents. However, its commercial lettings, land evaluation, grouse moor management, and other professional services make it a success with some of their services reaching globally.

Dacre, Son & Hartley signs are a common sight throughout Yorkshire. They sell houses in some of the most desirable towns in the country to live in.